AT&T Jacks Up TV Prices Post Merger After Repeatedly Claiming That Wouldn't Happen
from the price-hikes-for-everyone dept
You may be shocked to learn this, but nearly all of the promises AT&T made in the lead up to its $86 billion merger with Time Warner wound up not being true.
The company’s promise that the deal wouldn’t result in price hikes for consumers? False. The company’s promise the deal wouldn’t result in higher prices for competitors needing access to essential AT&T content like HBO? False. AT&T’s promise they wouldn’t hide Time Warner content behind exclusivity paywalls? False. The idea that the merger would somehow create more jobs at the company? False.
This was all laid out to US District Judge Richard Leon during the trial (twice), who ignored all of the warnings and rubber stamped the deal without a single condition. At absolutely no point did Leon in his absurd ruling recognize the threat of AT&T owning both a monopoly over broadband and a massive media empire in charge of content needed by competitors. And when lawyers and economists warned him that kind of power would only lead to higher rates, he almost happily ignored them.
Fast forward a year or so and AT&T is already imposing another significant hike on its TV customers (both traditional and streaming). New and existing users are seeing price hikes upwards of $10 to $15 per month. It’s the second price hike in less than a year. And despite being the broadcaster in this equation, AT&T blamed the hikes on broadcasters:
“In the email to customers that one customer shared with Ars, AT&T blamed the price increase on rising programming costs. Of course, AT&T itself is partly responsible for rising programming costs because it now owns Time Warner. AT&T told a federal judge last year that its acquisition of Time Warner would “enable the merged company to reduce prices,” but it’s been the opposite in reality.”
Funny, that. One of the reason for the hikes is AT&T needs to pay down debt from its 2015 acquisition of DirecTV ($67 billion) and the 2018 acquisition of Time Warner ($86 billion). AT&T thought it could simply just merge its way to video advertising market dominance. But after hiking prices to recoup this debt, consumers are fleeing AT&T’s services at an alarming rate. While AT&T is an incredible political tactician, it’s just another example of how the government-pampered monopoly can’t help but do a face plant any time bare-knuckled competition is required.
The saga again points to a US regulatory and legal system that has effectively given up on consumer protection or enforcing antitrust law, and the end result couldn’t be more obvious (or so you’d think).